Prairie Street Pasta closes; owner says passion never came, costs mounted

Talbot Fisher
Special to The Register-Mail
In this file photo, owners Renae Earnhart, left, and her husband Daniel Earnhart, opened Prairie Street Pasta at 51 N. Prairie St. Daniel says he never found the passion to runt he restaurant, while the pandemic created financial hurdles such as cost of supplies and labor.

GALESBURG — Few things have been riskier since the spring of 2020 than opening a new restaurant. But as Prairie Street Pasta in downtown Galesburg prepares to close its doors Friday, Daniel Earnhardt has no regrets. 

Earnhardt was managing an Italian restaurant in the St. Louis area when his mother suggested he come to Galesburg to open a restaurant. So, he and his wife Renae bought 51 N. Prairie St. in November 2020, with Charred 51 closing that month. On Feb. 15, 2021, Prairie Street Pasta had its grand opening. And on that day, the head chef who had been hired didn’t show up. 

Since that day, it has been work, work, and more work for Daniel while Renae has been a stay-at-home mom to a new baby. 

But with that work, there was no passion, Daniel explained on Wednesday. 

“To own and run a restaurant, you have to have the passion, and I just don’t have it. I thought once we were open and running and I was working for myself, the passion would come, but it didn’t.” 

More:These 9 Galesburg restaurants have closed for good since the pandemic

Not much work had to go into the building, which had been completely remodeled following a July 2017 fire. The restaurant started with 26 employees, which Earnhardt described as “too many.” But it’s been a learning experience for him, even with a lifetime of experience in the restaurant industry. 

“I’ve gained a new perspective on work, and on making a business work.” 

“Owning a restaurant is like raising a child,” he said, “but I’m going to focus on raising an actual child instead.” 

He has no complaints about Galesburg’s support of the business and is thankful for the many regular customers and several employees who have been there since day one. Reviews have been good, and of 43 reviews on Facebook the average is 4.7 out of 5 stars. 

But there were hiccups. To begin with, while COVID restrictions have eased, the pandemic still continues. Opening a year into the pandemic, Earnhardt had hoped that things would soon be back to “normal” but that level of “normal” has still not arrived. 

Finding reliable employees was difficult, according to Earnhardt and costs rose during the 20 months the restaurant was in business. Daniel cites costs of potatoes, chicken and other items doubling or more since opening. In addition to costs, it was simply harder to get supplies. 

Due to being a smaller restaurant, the Earnhardts bought supplies a week at a time. Recently they had trouble simply trying to find half and half on local shelves, and when they did, it cost more than before. The restaurant’s smaller size made buying in bulk more difficult, in order to prevent spoilage and waste. 

The Earnhardts recognize that most new restaurants take a few years to turn a profit, but ultimately, the closing isn’t really about money, but passion and the desire to focus on family. Daniel has already started a new job working in the sheet metal industry. 

“I’m really liking doing that and knowing I’m helping create equipment and things.” 

“There’s no regrets. I thank everyone who supported us and will miss the regular customers. We lost a little money but no relationships were harmed. We stayed strong, our friends, our family. Thank you.” 

Friday, September 30, is the last day Prairie Street Pasta will be open.